Wittenberg’s club rugby team spent their Valentine’s Day a little differently than most other students. The rugby team flew out to Las Vegas for a huge tournament on Wednesday, Feb. 12, and returned early on the following Monday morning.
The team competed in the Las Vegas Invitational, where they played and watched rugby teams from all over. There were high school, collegiate and professional teams from the U.S., Canada and other countries around the world. Both the men’s and women’s teams went 1-4 during the tournament, and both teams played defending national champion teams. For the women, it was the defending national champion team from Canada and the men played Arkansas State, the defending national champs for the states.
The Tigers are coached by 2014 alum and former rugby team member Tori Overholt. Overholt got back into the program when she was asked by a current player and former teammate to come back and coach. Firestine and Myers AC Brian Richardson also accompanied the team on the trip to help out since the teams played in two different stadiums during the tournament.
So why Vegas? The club president and captains pick tourneys for the team to go to in the spring. Vegas has been one that has always been talked about, but they do not usually go because the rugby team does not usually play sevens. They were able to work it out with the university to fly out to Las Vegas, and it is now the longest trip the rugby team has made. The rugby team takes a trip every year to Nashville, and a few years ago was able to go to Washington D.C.
Besides getting to play rugby, the team was also able to sightsee and visit some of the huge attractions. Overholt said that the team got to eat dinner at the food court in Caesar’s Palace, as well as the Hard Rock Café. The rugby team was also welcomed to Las Vegas by the Freemont Street Experience, the welcoming party the tournament throws for all the teams. To ensure that everyone got to do what they wanted, they were allowed to go see different things at a time, and to keep track of people, Overholt had the players check in every hour with selfies of them and the environment around them.
Rugby co-captain Harold Kalibala, ’15, expressed great enthusiasm about the trip:
“We scored against the number one school in the nation, Arkansas State, which was a huge deal because they don’t get scored on,” Kalibala said.
He also mentioned the improvement the team saw over the course of the trip: “At the beginning of the tournament, we were running around with our heads cut off, but every game we got better and we finished with a win,” Kalibala said.
Overholt was pleased with the experience that each player got going on this trip:
“It was an excellence experience playing . . . while we weren’t playing, we got to watch professional matches with some of the best players in the world,” Overholt said.
The teams hope to have another opportunity like this again soon, maybe taking another trip to Washington D.C. or heading back to Las Vegas.
As the team gets back into the mindset of Ohio, they are taking a break to recover and getting in the weight room for conditioning. They will host a tournament in April over on Bill Edwards Field, across from Burger King.